How to Explore Yosemite

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Natural beauty doesn’t get much better than Yosemite National Park in California. As the gateway to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite Valley is famous for its striking peaks and idyllic waterfalls. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of activities, but keep in mind, the timing of your visit is essential. For instance, winter weather can close off portions of the park, but also presents the opportunity to take in the splendor of Yosemite in the snow.

There’s enough to keep you busy in Yosemite for weeks, but this guide will focus on the highlights and more accessible perks the park has to offer for new visitors.

Getting to Yosemite

The countryside in and around Yosemite is spectacular. Getting the most out of your visit should include a scenic drive along California’s Highway 140, which starts in El Portal and winds through the quaint town of Mariposa. You’ll enjoy redwood-lined highways and views of the Merced River. In Mariposa, you can breathe in a tiny village that has resisted change for many years and visit local historical museums. If you love exploring dirt trails, this area offers superb off-roading, but not in Yosemite itself.

Top Sights and Experiences

Depending on how long you’ve got to spend, there are so many impressive sights and things to do in Yosemite National Park. Guided tours, hikes, climbs and camping are some of the most popular ways to spend your time in the expansive Yosemite Valley. A word to the wise: If you’re planning to visit during the summer, you’ll be fighting crowds and will not be able to do as much, so consider visiting during the “shoulder season” in spring or early winter. If you enjoy the snow, go for a full-on winter trip, but be aware parts of the park may be off-limits.

Waterfalls are some of Yosemite’s primary attractions. Highway 41, which runs through the park, will take you past one of the most majestic of them all, Bridalveil Falls, as well as Half-Dome, the rounded granite peak that is Yosemite’s most recognizable feature. Ribbon and Horsetail Falls are equally impressive, though they can be seasonal. Many of the hiking trails around the park will take you to scenic vantage points where you can watch the falls and take pictures.

Yosemite’s wildflowers make for wonderful viewing in the springtime, and if you’re lucky, you can see the natural phenomenon of a moonbow, which happens when light reflects off the mist from the waterfalls. The valley’s many simple campsites and cabins offer you the opportunity to spend a night in Yosemite Valley and experience these special moments. In the morning, you can rise and if the timing is right, possibly catch Yosemite’s famous Firefall, an effect created when the light on Horsetail Falls makes it look bright orange like liquid magma.

With so much to do, you owe it to yourself to spend at least a few days in this place of natural splendor. But even if you don’t have time to do that, you can experience a glut of once-in-a-lifetime scenery at the Ansel Adams Gallery. There, you can purchase pieces by the legendary wilderness photographer, whose name is honored with a section of land that spreads through the park. It’s a place everyone should see, so plan your trip today!

How to Stay Safe From Stinging Insects in the Woods

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There’s nothing worse than heading out into the woods to enjoy a hike or a camping trip, only to end up stung by bees or wasps — especially if you’re allergic to the stings. How can you stay safe from stinging insects when you’re out in the woods?

Look for Signs

While bee and wasp nests might not be as obvious as other insect nests, you can look for some signs to indicate that there might be a nest in the area. Look for:

  • Large numbers of buzzing insects: Bees and wasps will frequently congregate around their nests, so if you see large numbers of either insect, avoiding the area is your best bet. You can often find the nest by watching the return flight of the insects.
  • Visible hives or nests: Some species of bees and wasps will build nests out in the open that you can easily spot. Look for piled mud with holes in it or papery constructions that could indicate the presence of stinging insects.
  • Wax or honey: Beehives often have a waxy appearance, and you may see honey as well.

It can take a keen eye to spot some of these signs — some bees and wasps make their nests in tree hollows, under the ground or in other less obvious spots, so if you’re not careful, you can stumble into one of their nests.

Listen for Buzzing

Take out the headphones and listen to the world around you when you’re out in the woods. When you’re getting too close to a nest, regardless of the type of stinging insect that calls it home, you’ll likely hear an increased buzzing sound. This noise is the insects’ way of warning you away before they come out in force to chase you away from their home — but it can only work if you’re able to hear the buzzing before it’s too late.

Identify the Insects

Some stinging insects are more aggressive and dangerous than others, so your next step is to identify the insect that you’re dealing with. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • Honey bees: Honey bees are small, often fuzzy, and may look yellowish from the pollen that they carry on their body. They aren’t very aggressive unless you’re dealing with Africanized honey bees, and they won’t sting unless threatened. Honey bees will actually die after they sting you, so they don’t like to sting unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Bumblebees: These bees are bigger than honey bees but just as furry. They may bump into you when you’re walking, especially if you’re wearing bright colors or perfumes that make them think you’re a flower. They’re not aggressive and won’t bother you unless you bother them.
  • Wasps: These insects are larger than bees and tend to have much slimmer bodies. They can be aggressive if they feel that their nest is threatened and can sting multiple times without stopping.
  • Yellowjackets: Yellowjackets are small — about half an inch long — and won’t become aggressive unless they feel like you’re threatening their nest. They tend to build their nests underground, though, and it can be easy to stumble into one if you’re not careful.
  • Hornets: Hornets are much more aggressive than yellowjackets, and they’re also very territorial — if they feel like you’re invading their territory, they will attack.

If you’re dealing with bees or bumblebees — or even some wasps and yellowjackets — all you need to do is avoid the nest. If you encounter hornets, your only option is to get out of their territory.


If you inadvertently disturb a nest of stinging insects, you’ve only got one option — run! If they sting you, the stinging insect will release an alarm pheromone that will entice other bees or wasps to sting you as well.

Run, but don’t flail, and don’t swat at the bees, even if they’re stinging you. Dead bees release more pheromones that will call more insects to you. Instead, pull up your shirt to protect your face, then run and seek shelter. If you’re out in the woods, just keep moving until the bees stop stinging — this distance can be as little as a quarter mile or as much as multiple miles, depending on the species.

Whatever you do, don’t jump in the water — the bees or wasps will simply wait for you to come up for air, then continue stinging you.

Be Prepared

If you’re allergic to bee or wasp stings, even if you’re careful to avoid any nests, it’s always important to be prepared. Carry an EpiPen with you to counteract the allergic reaction to the stings, and call emergency services for advice as soon as you’re safe.

Being prepared can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. You may still require medical attention after using the EpiPen, so make sure you’ve got emergency services on speed dial.

When you’re out in the woods, you’re entering the territory of bees, wasps and other stinging insects. Keep that in mind, and make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings. Avoiding nests and hives is the best way to avoid stinging insects on your next hike or camping trip.

How to Avoid Getting Stung While Hiking and Camping

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Hiking and camping are great ways to spend some time outdoors, but when you’re in the great outdoors, you do have a few things to worry about — like bees, wasps and other things that sting.

If you’re heading out into the wild, what can you do to avoid getting stung or letting insects put a damper on your trip? Here are four tips.

Dress Appropriately

Bees and wasps aren’t looking for you — they’re looking for flowers to collect nectar from and pollinate. So, don’t look like a flower. When you’re dressing for your trip, avoid things that attract bees and other pollinators, like dark colors or shiny jewelry.

If you need to use lotion or sunscreen, choose unscented options. Even artificial floral scents can be enough to attract bees and wasps, increasing your chances of getting stung.

Know Your Bees and Wasps

There is more than one type of bees and wasps, and some are more dangerous than others. Here are the main ones you should be familiar with:

  • Honeybees: Honeybees are the ones you see flitting around in your flowers. They live in large colonies, and their honey might sweeten your morning tea. They don’t sting unless threatened — if they do, their stingers rip from their bodies, and they die soon afterward.
  • Bumblebees and Carpenter Bees: Bumblebees and carpenter bees are big and fluffy and might bump into you while you’re hiking, but they’re not dangerous unless they feel threatened. They can sting, but they won’t unless you mess with them.
  • Wasps: Wasps are a bit trickier. They’re more aggressive than bees, so encountering them on your trip has a higher chance of resulting in a sting. You’ve probably seen paper wasps and mud dauber wasps around your house. The former builds an umbrella-shaped nest of a paper-like material, while the latter will build nests from mud.
  • Hornets and Yellow Jackets: Hornets and yellow jackets are more aggressive and can be very dangerous if you stumble into their nests. Avoid these at all costs. If you see a hornet or yellow jacket, pick a different path.

This is a basic definition of these insects — you may also encounter some unique bees or wasps that are native to your area depending on where you’re hiking, so make sure to do your research before you head out.

Skip the Music

If you’re hiking alone, you’re probably used to listening to music while you hike, but this could be dangerous. If you have headphones in, you won’t be able to hear the buzzing of bees or wasps if you get too close to their nests. Bees, especially, will try to warn you away from their nests rather than stinging you by buzzing loudly or bumping into you as you get too close to their home.

Run Away!

If you run into a beehive or a wasp’s nest, the best thing you can do is run.  If you stay put, they will continue to sting you. Even if you’re not allergic to bee stings, an attack from enough of them can be fatal.

Most bees will give up the chase after a quarter-mile to a half-mile. While you might get a few stings, you won’t get enough to be seriously harmful.

Don’t jump into the pool or another water source, though. You might get rid of the ones on your skin, but the rest of them will wait until you surface and start stinging you again.

Keep in mind that when you’re hiking, you’re in the bee’s neighborhood. You wouldn’t like it if someone stumbled into your home, so make an effort to avoid stumbling into their house while you’re hiking.  They won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.

Best Hiking Trails in Vermont

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Vermont is called the Green Mountain State, with good reason — it has some of the most incredible mountain vistas this side of the Appalachians. It is also home to some of the best hiking trails in the country. Let’s take a closer look at the top hiking trails in Vermont to help you plan your next hiking or camping trip.

Moss Glen Falls Trail

This fantastic trail for beginners has a trailhead in Stowe. It is an excellent choice for all skill levels, and features a 2.9-mile trail, a waterfall and some amazing scenery you’ll have to see to believe. The trail itself is right off a busy highway, but you’d never realize it. Dogs are welcome as long as they’re on a leash, and if you get too warm, just jump right into the water!

Sunset Ridge Trail

This beautiful trail wraps around Mount Mansfield, and is a decent hike for all skill levels. It doesn’t reach the top of the mountain, but it is replete with unique flora. It’s one of the few places in the state where you can find the arctic-alpine tundra, and there are hundreds of unique plant species up there you won’t find anywhere else in Vermont. It has a high difficulty level, but there are so many things to see, you won’t even notice you’re climbing.

Appalachian Trail at Glastenbury Mountain

The entire Appalachian Trail is more than 2,100 miles long stretching from Georgia to Maine, but if you’re not up for that kind of hike, there are plenty of smaller trails you can enjoy. This one is a hard trail, with 3,000-foot ascents in some places along its 22.6-mile length. However, if you’re heading out for a weekend hiking and camping trip, this is one of the best places in Vermont to do it. There are plenty of camping sites and shelters where you can set up for the night if you want to make it a weekend trip.

Barnes Camp Loop

Here is a brand-new trail that is perfect for day trips and comes fully equipped with picnic sites and river crossings. The trail, which starts at the Barnes Camp, even has an ADA-accessible boardwalk to allow hikers of all abilities to enjoy the widespread Vermont beauty. Be careful of the river crossing, though — during high water conditions, it can be dangerous.

Echo Mountain Trail

On the eastern side of the state, there is Echo Mountain. This trail starts at the Lake Morey Boat launch and wraps around Eagle’s Bluff. It’s an easy trail, which makes it a great place to bring even the youngest of hikers, and offers views of everything from Smart’s Mountain to Mt. Moosilauke from various points on the trail.


This list is just a small sampling of some of the great trails are available in the beautiful Green Mountain State. We didn’t even include The Long Trail!  There are trails for hikers of all ability levels, so whether you’re just starting out, or are a seasoned hiker, you’re sure to find something you love.

How to Survive in the Woods With Nothing

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For most people, getting lost in the woods without any tools or supplies to help them survive is something out of a nightmare. It freaks people out so much that Hollywood has gotten a handful of reality TV shows out of it — even if they’re a little bit scripted.

So — just in case you ever find yourself as a character on a real-life episode of Lost — how can you survive if you find yourself trapped in the woods with no supplies?

The Three Necessities

When it comes down to it, there are only three things you really need to survive in the wilderness: water, shelter and food. Warmth may qualify as a fourth item — but not if you’re lost in a hot climate. You can survive for a couple of weeks without food, but you can only survive for two to three days without water.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can find each of these three items that are so necessary for survival.

1.      Water

Your priority, assuming you’re not injured or unable to move, should be to find water. There are plenty of ways to do this, including the following:

  • Look for Natural Water Sources: Lakes, rivers and streams are your friends — they provide a source of water in a pinch. Remember to take steps to purify the water. Even water that looks clean can harbor bacteria that could get you sick and make survival more difficult. Thankfully, it’s possible to purify water even if you have no tools available.
  • Collect Dew: Early in the morning or late in the evening, you can use a cloth to collect enough dew to wring into your mouth.
  • Dig: If you find a dry stream bed, there may still be water under the surface. By digging down, you may be able to find some — though you’ll still need to purify it.

Once you’ve secured your water source, your next step is to find shelter.

2.      Shelter

The shelter you find or make will depend on where you’re stranded. Caves are a great option, as long as other animals do not already occupy them.

If you can’t find a cave, a fallen tree can provide proper shelter if it’s stable. Find a fallen tree you can take shelter beneath and use branches, palm fronds or large leaves to create a makeshift shelter. It won’t be perfectly weatherproof, but it will be enough to keep you out of the elements and help you stay warm at night.

3.      Food

Food can be tricky, especially if you’re out in the woods in the winter. In general, you’ve got three options:

  • Animals: If you’re wilderness savvy, you could try to make some snares for small game like rabbits or squirrels. Ideally, these snares would be made of wire. If you don’t have any wires handy you can use just about anything — your shoelaces, strong vines or the headphones in your pocket. Fishing is also an excellent way to get food if you’re stuck out in the wild.
  • Insects: In a pinch, you can also eat most bugs. It sounds gross — and it might taste gross, too, if you’re eating them raw — but it can keep you alive if you can’t manage to secure any other food sources. Just remember what Simba said in The Lion King: “Slimy, yet satisfying!”
  • Plants: Unless you’re absolutely sure the plant you’re thinking about eating is edible, don’t eat it. It could get you sick and make it harder for you to survive.

No one wants to think about getting stranded in the woods, but if it happens, it’s better to be prepared.  If this is something you’re terrified of, keep a multi-tool or pocket knife on you at all times. Even if you don’t use it for anything other than opening letters, it could mean the difference between life and death — or at least help you survive until help arrives.

How to Choose a Hiking GPS in 2018

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Navigating the wilderness is a lot easier than it used to be. You don’t have to worry about finding landmarks or learning how to read a map and compass to ensure you don’t get lost in the woods. Handheld GPS navigators work off the grid, even if you don’t have a cell signal, but there are so many on the market it can be hard to know which one will work best for you. All of them will help you navigate, but some might be better than others at the job. How can you pick the perfect GPS to use on your next hike?

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

The first thing you need to think about is the size of your GPS. The bigger devices might have a ton of extra features, but they are often heavy and bulky and might not fit well into the already limited space in your backpack.

Smaller devices may have better battery life, or weigh less, and weight is everything when you’re carrying all your supplies on your back.

Battery Life

Here is probably the most essential feature to pay attention to — how long will the battery last in your GPS device? Most handheld GPS devices will have two battery options. They will either rely on replaceable alkaline batteries, or they will have a rechargeable battery like the one in your cell phone.

Be sure you choose a device that has a battery that will survive your entire hike. That isn’t as big of a concern for day trips, but could become a big problem if you’re planning a weekend trip or exploring the woods for days or weeks at a time.


You’ve got two different interface options for most GPS devices — buttons or touchscreens. Many people prefer touchscreens because they make it easier to navigate the maps, but they are difficult to use in cold environments where you should probably be wearing gloves. If you’re going to be using a GPS during all seasons, look for a device that has buttons or both buttons and a touchscreen available, so you can use your device no matter what time of year you’re exploring the wilderness.

Extra Features

GPS devices are chock-full of extra bells and whistles — some of them can be useful, while others are just a drain on the battery. Some useful additional features include:

  • Preloaded maps — If you are so far off the grid that even your GPS can’t find a satellite signal, a device with preloaded maps can help prevent you from getting lost. These are also an excellent tool if you’re hiking outside of the United States where you may not be able to find a GPS signal.
  • Waypoints/memory — If you’re going to retrace your steps on your way back to your car, a device that can store waypoints or keep track of the way you came is useful.
  • Compass — You might not need a compass to find your way, but an electronic compass on your GPS can be useful to keep you pointed in the right direction — literally!
  • Barometer — Most GPS devices can tell you how far above sea level you are, but ones that come with barometers can help make that information more accurate — and can even help you track the weather!
  • Two-way radio — If you’re hiking with a group, this can be a good tool to help keep track of your group members or let someone know if you’re in trouble. It can also receive weather alerts and forecasts, so you don’t get caught in the rain.

Handheld GPS devices are a wonderful invention. When you’re shopping for one, the trick is to find the one that works best for your specific needs and fits within your budget. Don’t splurge for all the bells and whistles you don’t really need — they’re not worth the extra cost, and will probably be more trouble than they’re worth.